Now’s the Time: The Michael Cuscuna Story
You know those GORGEOUS box sets you love? With the beautiful black and white photography? Sonically impeccable? Liner notes you want to read cover to cover? And alternate takes for days?
That’s the work of Michael Cuscuna, legendary producer and co-founder of Mosaic Records. If you’re a serious jazz collector, Michael is your most trusted source for deep-from-the-vaults music from the artists you love. And his latest box set is likely at the top of your holiday wish-list.
Join our own intrepid jazz-hunter, host Loren Schoenberg, when he and Michael do a deep dive into the world of jazz reissues, and Michael’s own long and storied career in jazz.
Michael Cuscuna has been one of the key figures in the reissue boom of the 1980s and 90s. When he produces a reissue, the emphasis is on coherent packaging, the reissuance of complete sessions and consistent high quality. Cuscuna played drums, saxophone and flute early on but his goal from the start was starting his own record label. He broadcast a jazz program on WXPN, worked for the ESP company in the late ’60s and wrote for Jazz and Pop Magazine and Downbeat. Cuscuna left radio in the early ’70s and became a producer for Atlantic (he had earlier produced a George Freeman date for Delmark), working with Dave Brubeck and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Other jobs included a brief stint at Motown, reissuing Impulse records for the ABC label, producing sets for Arista and Muse and working on the five-LP Wildflowers sessions for Alan Douglas. Cuscuna was involved in the Freedom and Novus labels with Steve Backer in the late ’70s. During 1975-81 he ran an extensive program in which he unearthed scores of important sessions for Blue Note. In 1983 Cuscuna and Charlie Lourie founded Mosaic, which has since been recognized as the #1 reissue label, reissuing complete sessions in lavish limited-edition box sets. In addition to Mosaic, Cuscuna has continued making major contributions to other reissue programs (including GRP’s Impulse series and Blue Note’s ongoing program) and has often been voted Producer of the Year in Downbeat’s Critics Poll.